On The Road To Green Bay

A second-half offensive explosion, great defense throughout, and a strong special teams showing gave the Giants their first postseason home win since a 41-0 victory over the Vikings in 2000. Now, they're off to top-seeded Green Bay with more than a puncher's chance to pull off an NFC semifinal upset.

The Giants have that Super look about them now following a 24-2 wildcard victory over Atlanta.

They'll head to top-seeded Green Bay now, a far different team than the one that nearly beat them Dec. 4 at MetLife Stadium. That one ended in a 38-35 Packers win thanks to a defensive collapse over the final 58 seconds.

But the way the Giants played Sunday, such collapses appeared well in the past. And the offense, despite following its usual pattern of slow starts, exploded in the second half to pull away from Matt Ryan and his group.

"It came down to who wanted it more," said Hakeem Nicks, who caught two of Eli Manning's three touchdown passes in a five-catch, 116-yard receiving day. "We were hitting on all cylinders -- offense, defense, and special teams."

Nicks had that right. The Giants, clearing continuing on the upswing that started with the final two regular season wins over the Jets and Cowboys, got a shutout performance from the defense and a second-half offensive onslaught that produced three straight scoring drives in the Giants' first home playoff win since their 41-0 trouncing of Minnesota in 2000.

"It's special," said Manning. "Our defense played awesome and the offense got going in the second half."

Said Justin Tuck, "Probably our best effort so far this year. I think the last three weeks - do or die games for us - we really came out and put things together, but it still feels like we can play better and we probably will have to next week going up to Green Bay."

It's off to Titletown now. And Manning will go into Lambeau Field with the confidence of knowing he beat Brett Favre there in 2007, in Ice Bowl II.

"We know they're a great team," Manning said after watching a running game that sputtered all season gash the Falcons for 172 yards, its third straight 100-yard effort. "We'll have to hit some big plays and see what happens."

The wildcard effort saw no shortages of such plays, ranging from Nicks' career-long 72-yard touchdown catch to Brandon Jacobs' season-high 34-yard run. Manning even made another great escape, getting away from a potential sack to hit Victor Cruz for a 22 yards on third-and-12 to keep the first touchdown drive of the second half going.

Could this be a repeat of the 2007 run to the Super Bowl? If they play as they did Sunday, the fourth-seeded Giants could certainly pull an upset at Green Bay. Especially since Green Bay has some injuries on their high-powered offense, including wide receiver Greg Jennings, expected back from a knee problem.

It could happen, but the Giants will have to continue on the rise. In other words, repeat what they did against the Falcons.

Here's the good and bad of the game.

THE GOOD:

TOTAL DEFENSE: Can't ask for more out of a defense. They pitched a shutout while holding Michael Turner to just 41 yards on 15 carries and the entire Falcons ground attack to 64 yards. Throw in the great job cornerback Corey Webster did in breaking up two dangerous passes and a front that stopped the Falcons on two fourth-down sneaks, and it's obvious this group remains on the upswing.

ELI MANNING: He passed Phil Simms with 11 career playoff touchdown passes with his fourth-quarter scoring throw to Mario Manningham. After a rocky start, he finished 23-of-32 for 277 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He's thrown just one interception his last three games. And this time, he engineered three straight second-half drives that produced 17 points, and would have had a fourth had Lawrence Tynes not left a 32-yard field goal attempt wide right.

FIRST-HALF DEFENSE: The Giants allowed the Falcons to put together a 13-play drive, but came up big on Ryan's fourth-and-1 sneak to change possession and hold Atlanta to no points on the drive. Osi Umenyiora, used with Jason Pierre-Paul either inside or on the opposite side, put pressure on Ryan.

BRANDON JACOBS: Much maligned for his lack of power running for much of the season, Jacobs continued an upswing of the last couple of games, first by ripping off a season-high 34-yard run to the Atlanta 15, and then spinning forward to pick up a first down on fourth-and-inches to the 4 that set up the Giants' first touchdown. Hakeem Nicks caught the play-action pass for a 7-2 lead in second quarter. Jacobs finished with 92 yards on 14 carries.

Steve Weatherford: The punter did a good job keeping the ball away from dangerous returner Eric Weems, knocking three of his four first-half punts out of bounds, one on the Atlanta 10.

Ahmad Bradshaw: He also ripped off a big run, this one for 30 yards to the Falcons' 5 to set up Lawrence Tynes' 22-yard field goal in the third quarter that gave the Giants a 10-8 lead. That followed a huge third-and-12, 22-yard catch by Victor Cruz. He ended with 63 yards on 14 carries.

NICKS: We already talked about his 4-yard scoring catch. But he broke the game open with his career-long 72-yard grab that started in a wide open area on a 15-yard pass. Nicks then headed upfield and split two defenders into the open field for a clear path to the end zone and a 17-2 third-quarter lead.

Chris Canty: Not only did he pressure Ryan up the middle, but he was in on two fourth-down stops on Ryan sneaks, the second of which gave the Giants the ball at their own 24 as the third quarter wound down. He came in low, and Chase Blackburn came in high to stop Ryan inches short.

MANNINGHAM: The wide receiver caught four passes for 68 yards, but one was a 27-yard touchdown to put the Giants up 24-2 in the fourth quarter. Also nice job getting both toes down on a sideline catch to keep the last real drive of the game going.

THE BAD:

PASS PROTECTIOn: That was suspect in the first half as John Abraham got in on Manning. But it was safety James Sanders who chased down Manning into the end zone and forced a throw that went as intentional grounding and a safety to start the scoring in the second quarter.

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